Health Reform: 10 New Ideas from Three Journalists

Published on
April 24, 2010

Here are 10 ideas from three journalists talking about how to cover health reform's rollout at the Association of Health Care Journalists conference in Chicago:

1. Will there be a physician shortage in your area? Start checking in with your local medical school or teaching hospital and the Association of American Medical Colleges and Teaching Hospitals.

 2. How willing are doctors in your area to accept new Medicaid patients? Access to health insurance doesn't necessarily mean access to an actual doctor.

3. Check on overlooked pork in the health reform bill for your community: just call aides to your local Congressional delegation.

4. Know the demographics of your audience when developing stories. Newspaper readers increasingly skew elderly, so they'll want to know about how Medicare benefits will change under health reform. Don't forget about near-retirees, too. There are underreported provisions in the new health reform law about how employers need to deal with reinsurance for these workers.

5. Know the demographics of your editors. If they have soon-to-graduate college students who will still need health insurance, they'll be interested in changes in dependent coverage for young adults.

6. No one person will be a perfect illustration of a particular policy change. Reflect that imperfection in your coverage: it's a good example of how laws actually work in real life.

7. Work your network and create new ones to find "real people" for your stories. Ask: do you know anyone who is actually affected by health reform – rather than just having an opinion? ("A lot of people's babysitters are uninsured.")

8. Hang out at laundromats, community clinics, supermarkets for a cross-section of people who might be most affected by reform.

9. Find an "action" to enliven dry policy stories – this is key for broadcast journalism. Ask people go to through their medical bills, or accompany them to the doctor or emergency room.  

10. Check out the Senate Democratic Policy Committee website for full text of health reform legislation and, more importantly, fact sheets that can guide you to key provisions you're interested in.